Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
THE SWALLOW TAILED KITE
What’ s that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’ s. . . . oh, actually it IS a bird!
The Swallow-tailed Kite is a native Floridian predator.
The easiest ways to recognise these birds are by its long forked tail (very similar to the swallow, hence its name) and by its deep black and white plumage. The kite is generally shock-white, apart from its tail, flight feathers and legs.
At just over half a meter in length, the Swallow-tailed kite can reach a wingspan of 1. 3 meters!
Where is the best place to spot a Swallow-tailed Kite? As they breed in Florida, it’ s ideal to look for potential nesting grounds, so head for wooded areas near water or wetlands--where they usually nest.
I personally have seen a pair in the Lake Louisa State Park (Hwy 27 North towards Clermont ) and from the pool deck at my villa on the sub devision of Orange Tree. To increase your likelihood of seeing a Swallow-tailed kite it is best to visit Florida between March and May as this is the mating season. By early July, they begin to gather in large numbers, to migrate to South America for the winter.
Nesting in tall cypress and pine trees, usually located in the prey rich woodlands of the Florida swamps, lakelands or savannas, the nest itself is made from small sticks and Spanish moss woven together . The nest are about fifteen or twenty inches across, about a foot in depth with an egg cup six inches across and four inches deep. Two or three eggs are laid from mid-March to mid-April.
As more and more of their natural habitat disappeares due to urban expansion these magestic birds are often forced to build their nests in flimsy Australian pines. Wind very often causes problems and the nests fail.
For a raptor the kite is very sociable. They nest in colonies and very often forage in small flocks. They eat all kinds of insects, small animals and this includes frogs, snakes and *anoles (*small and common lizards)
Keep an eye over the surface of the water, you might get a glimpse of some feeding or even drinking by scooping water into its beak.
Swallow-tailed Kites aren’ t classed as at risk in Florida, although their numbers are declining due to the destruction of their natural habitats. Thank goodness for places like the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, who provide key conservation areas.
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Page added on: 26 November 2008
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